Skip to content

Chapter Six



Robert Ford was within a whisker of succeeding Thomas Higinbotham as Engineer-in-Chief, and he undoubtedly had friends in the new government that would have spoken for him. Woods declared that Ford’s ‘whole heart was in his work’, and that even during his suspension over the Bain affair ‘he was so anxious to see the work of the Department go on all right that he attended his office regularly every day’.[1] Francis Longmore went further, not hesitating to say that Ford was about the best man there ever was in the Railway Department, and one they could not do without.[2]

A. T. Clark MLA attested to Ford’s reputation in the Railway Department ‘as being as honest and straight forward a public officer as there was in the government service’,[3] but a subsequent Parliamentary Inquiry found that that Ford showed a ‘want of courtesy towards his subordinates’.[4] Woods had to admit that his friend ‘might not be a man at all adapted to smoothing down Members of Parliament’.[5] Unfortunately for him, one of these MP’s was now Minister of Railways. J.B. Patterson had ‘no great love’ for Ford, later referring to him as ‘an awkward man to deal with…and one with a great deal of cunning’. [6]

Robert Ford

Ford was a gifted mechanical engineer and inventor with skill some felt bordered on genius, but he had been trained by his father as a blacksmith and risen from the trade ranks.[7] But Blacksmiths of that time were highly skilled metal workers. Making horse shoes was the least of their abilities: some would later be called boilermakers. Emigrating from his home in Gateshead, County Durham in 1852, he arrived in Melbourne shortly before his eighteenth birthday, already a proficient blacksmith. It appears he may also have gained some surveying skills while employed on the G&MR.[8] His career with the Victorian Railways began in 1860 as the Inspector of Works on the Moorabool Viaduct construction. Subsequently he entered the drafting office and rose to become Chief Draughtsman to Robert Watson, then a Resident Engineer.

After working with Ford for seventeen years, Watson wrote; ‘I cannot speak too highly of his ability, of his untiring perseverance and undivided attention to his duties – it seems to me he never rests, and it is not too much to say that he has done as much, if not more, than any other officer on our railways…’.[9] Ford was what became known as a workaholic, often working well into the night and on Sundays,[10] sometimes paying other railway draftsmen to help him with consulting work ‘on the side’. One such job was the design of the temporary wooden trestle bridge over the Murray River for the Deniliquin and Moama Railway.

The bridge was over 1,600 feet in length, and Ford was doubtless responsible for the central lifting span operated by a steam winch to allow river steamers to pass beneath. It was built in three months for about £2,000 and enabled the railway to open some 31 months before the permanent bridge was completed. The permanent bridge cost over £80,000.[11] Both Watson and Ford were confident to ride the first engine as it crept across the wooden bridge.[12] It was fit enough for its purpose, but some nervous passengers preferred to take the punt across the river rather than brave the creaking, swaying structure![13] Ford was said to have introduced wooden bridges on the Victorian Railways,[14] but the timber approach spans to the Saltwater River Bridge at Footscray were made under Darbyshire’s supervision.

Ford patented a number of inventions, and won prizes at the Victorian Industrial Exhibition of 1875, the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 and the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880.[15] All were mechanical engineering exhibits, the most important being a rock-boring machine which was manufactured at the Vulcan Foundry in Geelong and used in the mines at Bendigo and elsewhere on the goldfields.[16] He invented this in the quiet years of the late 1860’s, when new railway construction was on hold,[17] and continued its development throughout the next decade. A demonstration was given the Vice-Regal party that travelled up to Beechworth in July 1876. They came for the opening of the line, but then made a special side trip to the Rocky Mountain Extended Company’s mine to watch a Ford’s rock-borer in action.[18]

Manufactured in Victoria and protected by tariffs from competing machines, Ford’s rock-borer worked, but was notoriously prone to failure and a headache for the mining companies more or less compelled to use it. The Extended Company at Stawell was so frustrated with its Ford rock-borers that it set them aside and imported a ‘National’ rock-borer from USA at considerable expense. Compared with the National drill, which was ‘solid, simple, and compact’, Ford’s was ‘ricketty, perplexing, and complicated.’ [19] Nevertheless, it must have been a lucrative sideline for Ford, as in 1877 he was able to purchase the mansion ‘Whitmuir Hall’ at East Brighton from Thomas Bent, MLA.[20] Sold with 15 acres of land, including an orchard and gardens, it was a big step up for a man that began as a blacksmith, and a provocation to envy for many of his colleagues.

R.G. Ford with his patent Rock Borer. James Lerk, Robert Gray Ford, p. 42.

His most controversial invention was the new reversible point lever which he had manufactured by Bain and Sons and shown at the Sydney Exhibition. These were the levers specified for all the points in the new Melbourne Yard.[21] As Engineer for Construction, he was basically responsible for redesign Spencer Street Station and the running lines and sidings between it and North Melbourne.[22] These alternations served the Victorian Railways for seventy years.

In connection with these works an extensive new island platform 1,200ft long was built at Spencer Street, on an angle to the original which was parallel to the street. It was completed in early December 1879.[23] Ford also engineered the construction of a single line connecting Spencer Street and Flinders Street stations. Woods pushed its authorisation through the Assembly in a week, and the Council passed his Bill on 18th November. Within ten days most of the track had been laid beside Flinders Street, and Woods rode the first train on 20th December. Intended for goods and the transfer of rolling stock, it was opened just in time to move carriages to the Gippsland line which otherwise could not have coped with the surge of Christmas traffic.[24]

As Ford’s career advanced, some of the formally trained engineers endeavoured to keep him in his place, but Ford was ambitious and sought out friends that might help him overcome professional barriers. He made himself indispensable to Longmore and Woods, themselves seeking willing conduits into the Railway Department who could help them out-manoeuvre Higinbotham.[25] But he had an abrasive and tactless manner which made him enemies and lost him friends. He ostracised the Accountant, Robert Singleton, for his part in supplying Higinbotham with information about the Bain and Son contract.[26] But Woods and Ford remained friends, both being despised by Fraser, MLA for their ‘rude and uncouth manner’.[27] Woods admitted that his friend ‘was not a nice man to talk to, but his mind is constantly engrossed in his business’.[28]

With Ford in such contention and having no formal professional qualifications, J.B. Patterson had to find a replacement for the late Engineer-in-Chief. He might have given the job back to Watson, but the former Engineer-in-Chief had accepted an engagement as a consultant with the Tasmanian government[29] and was about to undertake an epic four month survey for a line from Roma to the Gulf of Carpentaria in outback Queensland.[30] Instead, Patterson chose William Elsdon, the former General Manager and Chief Engineer of the M&HBUR.

Elsdon had continued to manage the ex-Hobson’s Bay lines autonomously as a virtual subsidiary of the Victorian Railways since their take-over two years previously, on 1st July 1878. A friend of Higinbotham, he was gazetted as the new Engineer-in-Chief on 17th September 1880. While this was happening Melbourne was distracted by the exhibits arriving for the International Exhibition, and the upcoming trial of the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly.[31]

Elsdon’s Management

Berry’s Cabinet had refused to allow the M&HBUR lines to be integrated into the Victorian Railways, their old management team being retained with Elsdon reporting direct to the Minister, John Woods. So tight were government funds during the constitutional crisis that Berry insisted on Cabinet approval for any expenditure on the ex-M&HBUR lines.[32] This was to prove a disastrous economy. To make matters worse, the Secretary of the M&HBUR had been shot dead by a disgruntled employee four weeks after the government takeover, and Elsdon was left as ‘everything and everybody’.[33] He had been with the Hobson’s Bay lines from their earliest days, and had been quickly appointed as their Chief Engineer and General Manager, a position he retained for 25 years.[34]

William Elsdon C.E. Engineer-in-Chief and General Manager, 1879 – 1881. Melbourne Punch, 17 March 1904, p. 13.

But the senior Victorian Railways engineers viewed the M&HBUR with disdain. Higinbotham and William Meikle had reviewed the lines in 1873 and 1876, and decided they would be a bad bargain for the government.[35] If the senior men felt this way, there is little doubt their views were echoed by subordinates. Elsdon’s appointment from outside their ranks generated some resentment, just as Meikle’s had a decade earlier. Moreover, the loss of Higinbotham created turmoil, with real hatred seething between some of the senior men, Ford being the focus of much of it.

Within six months a number of engineers were plotting Ford’s removal.[36] Led by Francis Rennick, one of the Resident Engineers under the old management structure, they had been maintaining secret diaries recording their dealings with Ford.[37] Elsdon’s experience as a father to the small M&HBUR family had singularly ill-fitted him for managing this difficult Victorian Railways bunch, or for coping with the daily interference of politicians. His short incumbency was paralysed by indecision.[38] One of the draughtsman, when comparing the engineering office under Higinbotham, Watson and Ford noted that it had functioned in a state of high efficiency, but after Elsdon came ‘we could not get definite answers to definite questions – things were put off for a long time…’ There was ‘a sort of want of unanimity among the officers’.[39]

Before Higinbotham’s reinstatement, Ford had surveyed the Caulfield to Mordialloc railway, taking the line from the Up side of Caulfield and to the west of the Racecourse. This route happened to run close to his property ‘Whitmuir Hall’. When Higinbotham returned as Engineer-in-Chief in March 1880, he disapproved of Ford’s survey. Ford was soon suspended pending the outcome of the Bain Inquiry, and a new survey of the Mordialloc line was made, taking it east of the Caulfield Racecourse and further away from the Brighton line.[40]

Immediately after Higinbotham’s death, Ford was reinstated as Engineer for Construction, but in the meantime surveys had been placed in the hands of William Martin. Ford moved unilaterally to reassert his control over surveys,[41] which had been part of his responsibilities under Woods and Watson. Notification of such a change should have come from Elsdon, not Ford. So the new Engineer-in-Chief gently countermanded Ford’s instruction, and surveys were formerly returned to Martin in January 1881.[42]

Soon afterwards Elsdon and the Commissioner, J.B. Patterson, visited Caulfield to finalise the route for the Mordialloc line. They chose the route east of the Racecourse, with some adjustment. Ford was not present, but ‘was most anxious to go’ and felt slighted by the exclusion.[43] As Engineer for Surveys, Martin reported directly to the Engineer-in-Chief, but plans and specifications prepared by the surveyors also required approval by the Engineer for Construction. Feeling miffed, Ford refused to deal with requests from Martin unless directed through Elsdon.[44] This needlessly held up the flow of work, for which Ford was later censured.[45]

Ford also refused to speak with Branch Accountant John Singleton or even reply to his memos.[46] But not all the animosity in the Department was associated with Ford. Insecurity and resentments had festered since the sackings of Black Wednesday in January 1878, and the management reorganisation that followed. Woods had sought to bring all railway accounting under G.T.A. (George) Lavater, and dismiss surplus staff. Lavater had advised that having accounting within each Branch created an ‘imperium in imperio’ (State within a State), making a large portion of accounting work useless. [47]

Singleton was one singled out for retrenchment, but Watson, then Engineer-in-Chief, had insisted that Singleton continue to report directly to himself, as he and his assistant accountant ‘were almost indispensable to me in connection with the management of contract accounts; they always know what I want done, and I know from very long experience what they can do; it would be years before I could have the same confidence in any other men. I must, therefore, be always able to command their services.’ [48] So Singleton stayed, but no love was lost between him and Lavater.

George Lavater, Railway Accountant 1872-1887. Australasian Sketcher, 24 February 1887 p. 28.

Thomas Bent Takes Charge

J.B. Patterson’s term as Commissioner was short. He had tried to give Elsdon scope to manage without the political interference that had so dogged the railways over the previous decade. Contemporary historian H. G. Turner wrote that ‘all sorts of hangers-on had been foisted, under the guise of supernumeraries, into positions of emolument that were virtually permanent…’ Patterson was ‘so hunted by his fellow members of Parliament to find places for their friends and supporters that he formally handed over all appointments and promotions to the Engineer-in-Chief and the Departmental Secretary, and firmly declined to have anything to do with the matter.[49] But his light handed encouragement of professional accountability lasted less than a year, and proved a false dawn.

In July 1881 the Berry government’s reform efforts were spent and Bent crossed the floor from the Conservatives to enable former Berryite, Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, to form a minority government and stop Berry regaining office. For his reward, Bent was made Minister for Railways.[50] Disregarding Patterson’s encouragement of Elsdon to manage his Branch, which of course not binding, Bent ‘speedily took the whole Department back into his own hands’.[51]

Bent turned his Department into an ‘asylum for the lame, the halt, and the blind’.[52] It took a strong politician to resist the temptations of patronage at that time, and Bent was not such a man. Rather he seems to have revelled in his new found power, the extent of which can be gleaned from comments made by MP’s themselves. Wettenhall quotes one member, just elected, as already having eighty applications for government jobs, a second who claimed he received thirty or forty letters a day from applicants for employment, and a third who stated that such applications constituted three quarters of each members correspondence.[53]

As a young man Bent had worked at carting bricks, as a market-gardener and as a rate-collector for the Brighton Council. He was elected a member of the Moorabbin Shire Council in 1862. Of rather rough appearance and with a gruff manner, he was nevertheless amiable and good-hearted. He would ride up to a ratepayer on his ‘flea-bitten grey’, throw one leg across the saddle and say ‘Brown, I want your rates!’ and generally get them. He endeared himself to the residents and decided to challenge the sitting Member for Brighton in the 1871 election. This was Thomas’s brother George Higinbotham, former Chief Secretary and the most well-known public figure in Australia.

Bent canvassed the electorate well, winning a sensational electoral upset.[54] He had quickly aligned himself with Woods and as earlier discussed, played a part in the dismissal of Higinbotham. As the railways’ new Commissioner, he maintained his friendship with Woods and took political interference to new depths. But the first sign of trouble was not of his making. This was an almost exact repetition of the incident which had led to Ford’s suspension the previous year.

Ford in Trouble

Just as a design fault with the Carapooee Bridge had led to flood damage which Higinbotham wanted Ford to explain, now a flood on the Barwon River had banked up behind the bridge and embankment designed by Ford. Several woollen mills and other businesses whose premises had been flood damaged as a result claimed damages of £28,000 from the government. On Wednesday 10th August the Crown Solicitor wrote to the Commissioner of Railways that it was ‘absolutely necessary that the engineering officers of your department who were concerned in the construction of the said embankments should afford every assistance in the matter, and that skilled witnesses outside the department should be employed.’ [55] The following Friday Elsdon instructed Ford to assist, and on Monday requested William Zeal to provide external advice.

The week went by with no action, so on Friday 19th a desperate officer from the Crown Solicitor’s office called personally on Ford, and finding him out left a memo ‘urgently requesting’ him ‘to have a report drawn out immediately, stating the data (in full) on which the embankments of Colac line were constructed, and the names of the engineers who did so.’ [56] He was anxious to have the report the following Monday, and arranged with Elsdon to have a special train provided to take a small group of engineers to Geelong the day afterwards. Monday dawned, and Elsdon sent his clerk to deliver a memo to Ford. ‘I would like you to go to Barwon tomorrow’ wrote the General Manager and Engineer-in-Chief, and ‘don’t forget, like a good fellow, to go with them.’ [57] Incredibly, Ford said he had to go to St Arnaud instead!

When news reached the Crown Solicitor at lunchtime, he had a telegram sent to Elsdon urgently asking him to direct Ford to be on the train, as several other senior engineers, both from within and outside the railways had put off engagements to attend. A meeting followed that afternoon, but Ford was most reluctant to have anything to do with the matter. The Crown Solicitor’s officer pleaded ‘Your own reputation is at stake!’ Watson, who was also present, ‘was so struck with Mr Ford’s reluctance that he asked him if he were a shareholder in the woollen mills!’ [58] At the time, Watson was working as a consulting engineer after his retrenchment from the Victorian Railways in 1880.

Darbyshire’s original Spencer Street Station and Engineer-in-Chief’s Offices 1876. J.W. Lindt, SLV b46882.

It was only at the special request, almost entreaty, of Elsdon that a promise was extracted from Ford to go to Geelong. Nevertheless, next morning he was not on the platform by 10 am, as arranged. The official party waited an extra ten minutes, no doubt with the engine blowing its whistle, but they had to leave without him. So just as Ford had refused to respond to Higinbotham over the Carapooee Bridge, he now refused another direct instruction from his Engineer-in-Chief. But this time the stakes were higher, and an incensed Crown Solicitor complained to Bent on Thursday 25th.

Bent immediately instructed Elsdon to suspend Ford, but once again, no one could find him! For three days efforts were made to find the Engineer for Construction, who was said to be supervising works on the Frankston line. Messengers were sent by cab to Caulfield, Brighton and Mordialloc, but to no avail. The year before, Ford had also decided it was more important to inspect works on the Goulburn Valley line rather than report to his Engineer-in-Chief. Just as that had led to his suspension, so it was again when Elsdon eventually caught up with him on Tuesday 30th.[59]

Ford’s pay had been stopped on Saturday 25th August.[60] On the following Thursday, a broken wheel caused a serious accident to an ex-M&HBUR train at Jolimont. Four passengers were killed, and thirty nine others injured.[61] Next day, as if there was not bloodletting enough, Rennick and his co-conspirators decided to put the knife into Ford, formally charging him with tyranny, negligence, incompetence, and with employing government officers during government time on private work.[62] These charges were additional to the Barwon Bridge incident which had led to Ford’s suspension, but they were not fresh. Some of the complaints referred to occurrences two years before. Their airing at such a distressing time reflected the parlous state of the railway administration.

Bent quickly appointed a three man Board of Inquiry into the Barwon Bridge, but announced Rennick’s charges would have to wait until after their report was made.[63] Ford pleaded the pressure of work and said he had not been told when the special train was to depart. The Board reported a month later, finding that Ford’s excuses were unacceptable. But they also acknowledged the ‘very valuable services which, as appears from the minutes of the late Mr. Higinbotham and Mr Watson, Mr Ford has rendered to the country’ and their hope that this would ‘not be forgotten in considering their finding on the present charge.’ They rebuked both Ford and Elsdon for not promptly enforcing orders with ‘implicit obedience’ and that laxity on the part of the principal officers had impaired the discipline of the whole department. [64] They absolved Ford of any misconduct in regard to the Barwon Bridge.[65]

Thomas Bent MLA, 1874. Edward Gilks, SLV H9857.

Ford’s suspension lasted only six weeks. Although he was receiving no pay he attended the office daily. Woods claimed that this prevented the work getting into a ‘hopeless muddle’,[66] but a later inquiry found that Ford’s non-cooperation with other senior officers was partly to blame for the inefficiency that had plagued the Department. His prime concern was surely to keep an eye on the Rennick clique! And well he might.

Ford had been back at his desk (officially) for only two months when his enemies stirred up their charges again, this time through the connivance of the Member for Rodney, Simon Fraser. In a chilling attack on Ford under parliamentary privilege, he called for another Board of Inquiry into the accusations. This sparked a long debate, in which Woods and Longmore leapt to the defence of their friend, while most other speakers were equivocal in their views.[67]

There can be little doubt that the Ford case was providing the opposition with an opportunity to embarrass the government. Recriminations over the Jolimont accident were still being thrown about, and Gillies was on the mark when he observed that ‘it was a matter of notoriety that the permanent staff of the Department was in a state of thorough disorganisation…’ [68] A Board of Inquiry would serve to keep these issues alive, and maybe bring down the government.

Bent successfully avoided the trap by reminding Members that a three man Board of Inquiry had only two months previously cleared Ford of misconduct. He had hoped that the Railway Department would come out of the Barwon bridge affair ‘triumphantly’, and that the stern warning he gave Ford and Rennick would have cleared the air.[69] He was also critical of his Elsdon, holding him ‘just as much to blame’ over the Barwon Bridge affair as Ford.[70]

Bent also supressed Elsdon’s report on the Jolimont accident. This held that poor maintenance of the ex-Hobson’s Bay rolling stock was not to blame, and the accident could have happened anywhere.[71] The Age blamed Woods for doing ‘literally nothing to repair the deficiencies which he himself had denounced noisily’, by withholding funds from the ex-Hobson’s Bay lines during his time as Commissioner of Railways.[72] Woods tried to shift the blame onto Elsdon and Bent developed a palpable dislike for his Engineer-in-Chief[73] This left Elsdon weaker than ever in his efforts to control his unruly engineers. His response was to procrastinate.

Ford’s Third Suspension and Inquiry – February 1882

Bent was also now wary of Ford. In January 1882 the Engineer for Construction was seeking to extend the interlocking of the Melbourne Terminal and was pushing the equipment made by Saxby and Farmer. That company was a competitor of McKenzie and Holland, who were chosen by Higinbotham for the interlocking of the Melbourne Terminal. McKenzie and Holland had also been preferred in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Ford’s recommendation threatened to introduce the complexity of two systems, but a cautious Bent decided to call tenders for the interlocking of Richmond so that the bids of the competing companies could be tested.[74]

The New Year had seen no letup in the pressure for another Inquiry, and on 8th February 1882,[75] Ford was suspended for the third time in less than two years. Rennick, now Engineer of Surveys, resubmitted his charges to Bent the following week, fully aware that his own job was on the line should Ford be exonerated.[76] Shortly afterwards Bent included Ford in the official party which travelled to Sydney to negotiate the linking of the two colonies at Albury. (This is discussed below). Woods was present and both he and Bent wanted Ford’s advice about the bridging of the Murray River. This favouring of a suspended officer raised eyebrows![77]

The following month a three man Board of Inquiry was duly appointed, and proceeded to take copious evidence, aware as they were that two former investigations had failed to silence Ford’s accusers or get rid of him. Twelve charges were made, and over sixteen sitting days the Board heard witnesses and asked 7,870 questions. The inquiry and subsequent preparation of the report took three months, being completed on 1st June. The Board apologised for its ‘voluminous character’ which ‘has extended to a length which we could not avoid.’ 875 copies were printed for a cost of £226/10/-[78] enough to purchase a house in those days. And to what avail? Ford was a very senior officer with powerful friends in government. They therefore trod carefully, giving the benefit of doubt and accepting much of Ford’s explanations. They concluded that many of the complaints were of a frivolous nature, several charges were unproved and he was absolved of every serious charge but one.

This harked back to the Carapooee Bridge, where Ford unaccountably reduced Greene’s provision for a 650 feet waterway to 100 feet, with the result that flood waters washed away part of the approach embankment. Ford ‘could give the Board no satisfactory explanation for this extraordinary alteration’ and he was held responsible for the flood damage.[79] This was a matter that had concerned Higinbotham soon after he was reinstated in April 1880, but in the ensuing political turmoil the matter was shelved. Now, two years later, the old Engineer-in Chief’s concerns were vindicated. The first charge was that Ford had employed draughtsmen for his private projects on government time was found proven in two instances, the Board nevertheless accepting Ford’s explanation that the draftsman had misinterpreted his intention that the work should be done in his spare time.[80] They dismissed as ‘entirely groundless’ claims that Ford had neglected to properly supervise construction works, and that whereas these claims came from junior officers, both Engineers-in-Chief (Watson and Elsdon) viewed him as a ‘most indefatigable officer’.

The Board did, however, find several instances of Ford exhibiting a ‘want of courtesy’ towards his subordinates.[81] and were not impressed with his failure to reply to letters and memos sent by other officers, particularly Rennick, Martin and Singleton. His stubborn refusal to approve plans and specifications had caused delay, and they did not hold him blameless for the resulting disorganisation in the office.

The Board was equally critical of the Elsdon’s failure as Engineer-in-Chief to resolve disputes and clarify accountabilities between his officers, finding his indecision was the primary cause of his Branch’s disorganisation. The accusation that Ford specified expensive ballast for the Mangalore to Murchison line but then agreed to substitute cheaper gravel on terms favourable to the contractor was quashed. Watson took responsibility for what he admitted was a mistake in the specifications.[82]

Watson’s advocacy for Ford throughout the Inquiry is indicative of his long standing appreciation of his subordinate. On two occasions he recommended substantial salary increases.[83] Both men were actively critical of Higinbotham[84] and willingly undermined his authority by cooperating with Longmore and Woods. With Higinbotham out of the way after ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878, the draughtsman’s office was said to have functioned to a high state of efficiency for two years under Woods as Commissioner, Watson as Engineer-in-Chief and Ford as Engineer for Construction.[85]

The draughtsmen’s office may have been functioning efficiently, but engineers in the Branch had been preparing a case against Ford since 1878, keeping secret diaries of his mismanagement. Where there is smoke there is usually fire, and while professional jealousy cannot be discounted, nor the shock of Higinbotham’s death on the eve of Ford’s reappointment, the charges were clearly not lightly made. Rennick put his job on the line to pursue them, but in the event the charges were difficult to prove.

It is sometimes joked that doctors bury their mistakes and lawyers jail them, but engineers make theirs in the public gaze. Watson took responsibility for the Barwon Bridge design and the Murchison line ballast mistake, but these were not the cause of his resignation in 1880, and indeed he was soon to be reinstated as Engineer-in-Chief. Neither could Ford reasonably have been dismissed over his mistake with the Carapooee Bridge.

A month after the Board’s report, yet another charge was raised in the Legislative Assembly. This concerned Ford’s sale of four acres of his property in Brighton for use as a ballast pit. The sale was through an agent, and the purchaser was the contractor for the Frankston line. There was a whiff of shady dealing, but Woods, Bent and Longmore leapt to Ford’s defence and the matter was allowed to drop.[86]

But with weak management under Elsdon the lingering root of bitterness is his Branch was still causing trouble and defiling many. Bent’s solution was to cut the root out. Rennick was retrenched,[87] and on 26th July Ford was transferred by order of the Cabinet to an unwilling Public Works Department. In view of Ford’s reputation with bridges, the Inspector-General, W.H. Steel, gave Ford three months to prepare plans and specifications for a new Falls Bridge (later called Queens Bridge). [88]

The Age lamented that ‘Mr. Ford…has been got out of the way by appointing him to a position where his services are of little value to the country.’ [89] Woods complained that it was ‘like putting on a 100 horse power engine to turn a coffee mill.’ [90] More likely he was moved to where he was of little value to radical politicians and newspapers! Rennick, on the other hand, was re-employed a month later.[91]

Ford was not a civil engineer, and while an accomplished inventor and adept at supervising the erection of bridges, complex design was another matter. He had various jobs at the Public Works Department and was assigned a draughtsman to assist with the Fall Bridge job. But after five years and many repeated requests to finish he had not provided acceptable plans and specifications.

Despite retaining the £800 per annum salary he had received at the railways, he exhibited the same uncooperative and stubborn attitude that had so exasperated Higinbotham and Elsdon. At length, Steel formally charged Ford with neglect of duty, but rather than purse that course the government abolished his position. Ford was therefore retrenched on 31st August 1887.[92] He died at Whitmuir Hall at age of 57, on 22nd November 1891, leaving his wife and family a substantial fortune valued at £29,123.[93]

Bent’s ‘Octopus Bill’ of 1881

The Jolimont accident and cronyism led to growing public outrage, with all three Melbourne newspapers united in their attacks on railway mismanagement in general, and with political patronage in particular.[94] In a cynical and unparalleled attempt to gain political favours Bent introduced a Railway Construction Bill in the Legislative Assembly on 13th October 1881. In preparing the Bill, one of Bent’s first actions was to give a £50 per annum salary increase to Engineer of Surveys, William Martin.[95] No doubt he hoped that on £650 per annum, Martin would be obliging with plans and estimates for the proposed new lines.

Martin was an ally of Rennick and Bent soon found him uncooperative. So George Darbyshire was given the Engineer of Surveys job on a salary of £750 per annum.[96] Darbyshire had taken over as Engineer for Construction when R.G. Ford was removed in 1882, and once again found himself working in his old MMR&MRR office at the Spencer Street Station, opposite Collins Street.[97] For the next decade he supervised a huge expansion of the railway network and finally regained his old job as Engineer-in-Chief..

Bent’s Railway Construction Bill proposed spending exactly £2,433,194/11/-, laying down 56 separate light lines totalling 827½ miles. These lines just happened to bisect parts of every one of the colony’s 55 electoral constituencies![98] Hall MLA, who must have been the Assembly wit, coined it the ‘Octopus Bill’ because it had ‘feelers to stretch everywhere and grasp everything!’ [99] No engineer in the Railway Department would put his name to Bent’s estimates.

Spurning the advice of his own officers, Bent sought out Watson, who was then freelancing as a consultant after his resignation upon Higinbotham’s return in 1880. He also engaged Zeal, who had last been of assistance as one of the ‘independent’ commissioners employed by the Woods Continuous Brake Company.[100] These men knew a thing or two about light lines.

Woods knew the South Australians were extending the broad gauge railway over the Mount Lofty ranges to Nairne, ‘with 1 in 40 gradients, 40 lb per yards rails and three ton axle loads’ [101] and Bent explained that ‘…it is the policy of this country to act upon the American principle, and to make as many railways as we can. That can only be done by using 40 lb or 50 lb rails, which Mr. Elsdon does not believe in…’ [102] Elsdon, he said, ‘does not thoroughly approve of the lines I propose…he thinks my estimate of the costs of construction is rather low’.[103]

Zeal had engineered the Deniliquin & Moama railway, but even his advice was too conservative for the Sandringham market gardener! In an effort to wring the last mile of track out of the funds being sought, Bent decided the last 58 miles of lines would be made for £1,500 per mile. Said Bent, ‘I have not consulted with the engineers at all, but have simply used my common sense…’ [104] His common sense was apparently capable of calculating the total cost down to the last eleven shillings!

Bent’s removal of Elsdon April 1882

Before disposing of Ford and Rennick, Bent resorted to a ‘stupid pettifogging subterfuge’ to get rid of Elsdon; or so it appeared to one member of Parliament.[105] Elsdon was obstinately refusing to approve ballast supplied for the new Caulfield to Mordialloc line. The ballast was substandard, and the Engineer-in-Chief had exercised his right to reduce the price he was prepared to pay for it. He also held off making a personal inspection and giving his approval for its use. And why not, given the strong suspicion that the offending ballast had been supplied by Mrs Bent! [106]

When Bent realised he was not going to budge Elsdon, he enlisted the support of the Premier, Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, who asked Elsdon to make an inspection ‘at once’, and agreed to accept whatever decision the Engineer-in-Chief reached. But Elsdon dug his heels in, and by 6th April he was negotiating retirement. Next day he was given a fabulous £3,003 golden handshake, which amounted to one month’s pay for each of his 28 years’ service. But less than four had been served with the government railway and he had received £2,000, a gold watch and a dinner service upon the wind up of the M&HBUR in 1878! [107]

Ill health was given as the reason for the Engineer-in-Chief’s retirement, but that was a lie.[108] Mr. Hall, MLA for Moira, scoffed that ‘it appears like saying to him “Do you see what I have in my hand? I advise you to feel unwell”…A few days after…I met him in Collins Street, smoking a cigar and looking as well as ever I saw him look in his life!’ [109] When Elsdon’s reasons for retiring were examined later, health was not mentioned. Elsdon said it was due to the Minister’s directing his subordinates to prepare plans behind his back.[110] Bent feigned outrage at Elsdon’s payout in parliament, interjecting that ‘he should be put on the roads’.[111]

Bent accused Elsdon of misleading parliament into purchasing the M&HBUR by making a fraudulent guarantee that the Hobson’s Bay lines were in good repair. This put the blame for the Jolimont accident on Elsdon, but this was a lie too. Parliament’s decision to purchase the Hobson’s Bay lines was made well before Elsdon’s condition report. More than anyone, it was Bent’s mentor Woods who was to blame for the Jolimont crash, as while Commissioner he neglected the Hobson’s Bay lines and made no attempt to authorise vital maintenance and renewals. [112] Bent knew this, as one of Bent’s first acts as Commissioner was to instruct Mirls to urgently examine the Hobson’s Bay locomotives and rolling stock. The Locomotive Superintendent was shocked by what he found, and immediately withdrew a dozen vehicles for urgent repair.[113]

Bent was sinking his portfolio deeper into the muck of cronyism than the combined efforts of most of his predecessors! Perhaps the worst excess was his favouring of the Woods hydraulic brake,[114] which Mirls was continuing to fit to carriages and locomotives, despite its clear inferiority and unpopularity among passengers.[115] Bent had shares in the company, and he could see nothing wrong with having his Department purchase ‘excellent gravel’ ballast from ‘My Wife’s Paddock’.[116]

Watson Returns as Engineer-in-Chief

With Elsdon and Ford out of the way, Bent invited Watson back for his second term as Engineer-in-Chief. This did not go down well with the conservative press! Watson was said to be a ‘protégé and tool’ of Woods and Bent, lacking the moral courage to stand up to any ‘crack-brained absurdity which these two may wish to carry out’.[117] It was ‘tantamount to abolishing the office of engineer-in-chief, and placing the professional control of the constructive branch in the hands of Mr. Bent.’[118] Instead The Argus proposed William Greene[119] as a competent engineer with a reputation for resisting political interference.[120] Greene and Wells had been left in charge of the Engineer’s Branch when Higinbotham toured overseas. They were pallbearers at his funeral.[121]

Bent strengthened his control by splitting the Engineer-in-Chief’s department, limiting Watson’s responsibility to new construction, and creating a new position of Engineer for Existing Lines, to which he appointed Greene. George Darbyshire was initially placed in charge of Surveys. He had joined the Victorian Railways again in September 1881, having been dismissed in the Black Wednesday purge of 1878.[122] His wife Maria had died six months earlier at their farm ‘The Grange’ at Werribee, after a very long illness.[123] Watson, Greene and Darbyshire all reported directly to the Commissioner, just as the Locomotive Superintendent had since 1871 and the Telegraph Engineer since 1878.[124] Bent, a market gardener with nine months experience as Minister of Railways, was now effectively General Manager. The Age raised no objection.

Instead, The Age published a venomous letter supporting Watson and bagging Greene, penned under the nom de plume of ‘Driving Wheel’. ‘Mr. Watson is not a man given to ostentation. He does not put on official airs; he does not swagger, nor bully, nor speak in a loud tone of voice. He conducts himself like a gentleman, and does his work properly. The Argus cannot and dare not impugn his professional ability, but it makes a poisonous insinuation that is grossly untrue.’ Mr Greene, on the other hand was a ‘tyro’ with a ‘pigmy brain and puny reputation’.[125]

Greene was blamed for a wash-out and an ensuing derailment on the 1871 group of light lines, but he was forced to engineer these lines on a skimpy budget. He was also blamed for a wash-out, derailment and bridge collapse at White Hills, on the main line to Echuca, and poor construction of a wharf at Echuca.[126] With libellous invective such as this hanging over them, Watson, Greene and Darbyshire met to thrash out how the new arrangements were to work, still with the Ford Inquiry unresolved.[127] The railway head office would not have been a happy place.

The derailment of 0-6-0 No. 43 and 38 goods trucks near White Hills on 13th February 1877, following a washaway. SLV FL20669031.

Inquiry Into Bent’s Management May 1882

With the removal of Elsdon, Bent overreached himself and calls for an Inquiry into his management became insistent. An Opposition’s motion on 16th May was debated by fourteen speakers, and defeated only after the government agreed to move a similar motion themselves. This was done, with another twenty five members speaking before an affirmative vote was taken.[128] The Colony then witnessed the singular spectacle of two simultaneous Parliamentary Inquiries into the behaviour of senior railway personalities (Ford and Bent).

A month later the results were tabled. Ford’s charges had been exhaustively investigated under oath by an independent Board, but not so the Select Committee appointed to the hear charges against Bent! Quickly and predictably they exonerated him of any corrupt conduct. This was partly because Elsdon, the star witness of the opposition, refused to ‘father the statements’ he had made informally to Mr. Fincham, MLA, who was left bereft of ammunition.[129] Perhaps Elsdon didn’t want to jeopardise his very generous retirement package and was just sick and tired of the politicking. Nevertheless, it was obvious Bent was using his position to influence Elsdon and other railway engineers to favour projects for his own political and personal advantage. Even The Age castigated the select Committee’s findings as a complete whitewash.[130]

The Hawthorn Accident, Railway Management Bill and the Fall of Bent

The Jolimont accident occurred only six weeks into Bent’s Ministry, but the new man showed his hand by urging his Brighton constituents involved in the accident to lodge inflated compensation claims.[131] It was not long before another serious accident occurred, this time at Windsor on 18th March 1882. A Down express, which was not fitted with continuous brakes, passed a signal at danger and collided with the rear of the previous Down stopping train, which had still not cleared the platform. The impact was at low speed, and as the passengers had left the train minutes before there were no serious injuries. Bent happened to be on hand, and assisted the staff in his shirt sleeves.[132]

The Argus called for the rapid fitting of continuous brakes. Hitherto, only the only brakes on a train were those of the locomotive and the brake van. The invention of continuous brakes enabled all vehicles to be braked, and activated simultaneously. Woods had invented his own version, and The Argus correctly discerned progress was being hampered by Woods’ attempts to force the fitting of his brake.[133] But Bent did nothing.

Then, late in the Saturday afternoon of 2nd December, an Up special train of first class carriages returning from a land sale at Box Hill collided head-on with a regular Down suburban train between Burnley and Hawthorn. One passenger was killed and 175 injured, including friends of Graeme Berry, then leader of the Opposition. Neither train was fitted with continuous brakes, the stations were not linked by telegraph and the safeworking procedures in place were defective.[134]

The impact was like ‘thunder’ and sounded the death knell of the O’Loghlen government. In a desperate effort to hold onto power Bent dislodged the Railway Management Bill from its pigeon hole. The O’Loghlen government had promised to reform railway management, but Bent had seen no advantage in it! The year of turmoil under Elsdon was giving his cabinet colleagues cause for concern. After the Hawthorn accident this turned into ‘much anxious consideration’.[135] Not least was the massive compensation payouts following the Jolimont, Windsor and Hawthorn accidents, which amounted to £183,000[136] – sufficient to build about 35 miles of new railway.

The train wreck raised public agitation to a crescendo and within seventeen days an anxious government introduced its Railway Management Bill. But with only a week to Christmas there was no immediate chance of its passage. Indeed, the whole legislative program of the O’Loghlen government had been dogged by Opposition tactics throughout 1882. Of its one hundred sitting days, 25 had been wasted in ‘want of confidence’ debates, and eight of those days were devoted to censure of the governments (that is, Bent’s) handling of the railways.

Bent’s ‘Octopus Bill’, introduced on 13th October 1881, had still not found its way through parliament fifteen months later. With the summer temperature climbing, it was a frustrated Sir Brian O’Loghlen that called on the Governor that overcast 30th January 1883.[137] Lord Normanby signed the proclamation dissolving parliament, and the colony was thrown into its twelfth general election campaign.[138] The party was over for Bent and Woods, as on that very day the shortcomings of the Woods continuous hydraulic brake were being exposed in brake trials at Werribee. The colony had had enough of the ‘inventive genius’ of ‘Jack’ Woods.[139]

Woods had depended on Robert Ford’s real talent, but with Ford gone his professional weakness was exposed. Mirls and his men at Williamstown Workshops were the willing ‘elaborators’ of his hydraulic brake[140] but without Woods and Bent controlling railway affairs the invention would have to stand or fall on its merits. Decades later an older Bent would reassert his influence, but Woods’ power in railway affairs was exhausted. Although politics was his overriding passion, he nevertheless maintained an interest in railway affairs from parliament, eventually being elected onto the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways in late 1890. He attended every meeting for 18 months before his death, at the age of 69, on 2nd April 1892.[141]


The First Intercolonial Overland Service

When the Victorian Railways opened their North Eastern trunk line to Wodonga in November 1873 the railhead of the NSW Great Southern line had only reached Goulburn. It would be another decade before the two colonies were connected by railway. But in July 1876 the NSW railhead had been extended to Bowning, about 200 miles from Sydney. There was still a daunting gap of 180 miles to the Victorian railhead at Wodonga, but a remarkable co-ordinated overland mail service was arranged by the colonial post offices, railways and Cobb & Co. The famous stagecoach company connected the railway termini with an epic service requiring fourteen changes of horses, three changes of coach and four changes of driver through two nights and a day, completing the run in 26½ hours.

The drivers of these coaches were local heroes, the undisputed ‘Kings of the Road’ with a deep understanding of both their horses and their road. They were competent to safely travel at night with virtually no lights. The kerosene lamps on a coach barely threw their beams past the lead horses.[142] The following year Cobb & Co were confident to advertise the co-ordinated overland journey for punters anxious to attend the 1877 Melbourne Cup. For £10 they could avoid the dreaded ‘mal de mer’ of the sea voyage, although on arrival at Wodonga they were covered with dust from their hats to their boots! [143] But the 41 hour co-ordinated train-stagecoach-train service between Sydney and Melbourne cut a day off the coastal steamship service, and more if the sea voyage was stormy.[144]

Cobb & Co. Coach at Barraba, NSW circa 1900. Percy Williams. Barraba Historical Museum.

So important was the overland connection that a special train was despatched from Melbourne after the Royal Mail steamers delivered the monthly European and Indian mails. This train might have carried less than 100 mailbags,[145] barely enough to fill one mail van and maybe a couple of Cobb & Co. stagecoaches north of Wodonga, but such was the thirst for news that the expense was gladly incurred. When the NSW railhead reached Wagga Wagga in September 1878[146] the overland co-ordinated service gained in popularity, the Melbourne Cup again generating the most traffic.[147]

The railway finally reached Albury, on the north bank of the Murray River, in February 1881. A four mile gap and the colonial border formed by the river still separated the two railways. The Sydney Morning Herald caustically reported that ‘no practical step has yet been taken to connect the lines. The negligence and procrastination shown in this matter bring both discredit and ridicule upon the colonies concerned…when nearly the last rail has been laid…no arrangement has been come to with regard to a bridge over the Murray, the cost of which would be, comparatively speaking, a mere bagatelle.’ [148]

At least there was a semblance of a through service and the opening of the Great Southern Railway to Albury was cause for celebration. Two trains for guests were despatched from Sydney on Wednesday 2nd February 1881. These trains comprised bogie cars and included the new American saloons built by Hudson Brothers at their Redfern workshops. A third Ministerial train for VIP’s followed for the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes, and 75 other dignitaries who made the 400 mile journey in 14 hours.

The Ministerial train was an all-bogie consist, except for the old six wheeled Governor’s car for Sir Henry. [149] It steamed away from Sydney with double headed locomotives at 9.55 pm,[150] its three new Pullmans the only sleeping cars in Australia.[151] Also attached was an American saloon for smokers and the Palace Dining Car, built on-spec by Hudson Brothers in Sydney after a visit by Robert Hudson to America.[152] It was the first dining car in the Antipodes. Only two days previous the same train had taken an official party to open the railway to Dubbo without Sir Henry, who pleaded poor health.[153] But he made a rapid recovery for the Albury opening!

With the rest of the ‘nobs’ he arrived at Albury at Noon on 3rd February, and the assemblage proceeded to the marquee. The Victorian Premier, Graeme Berry, Commissioner of Railways, J.B. Patterson, the Engineer-in-Chief, William Elsdon and the Traffic Manager, John Anderson arrived half an hour later after a six hour journey from Melbourne. Elsdon’s opposite number from NSW, John Whitton, was notably absent from the podium, his influence being on the decline after a career that in many ways parelled Thomas Higinbotham’s.[154]

The NSW trains of American saloons, Pullman sleepers and a dining car arrived behind up-to-date 79 class Beyer Peacock 4-4-0s. These trains must have been eye-openers to the Victorians, who had made the journey in little four and six wheeled carriages behind a trusty eighteen year old B class 2-4-0. A design of the early 1860’s, these were still Victoria’s mainline express engine in 1881. The last of them, No. 188, was locally built by Phoenix in 1880 to the old design, and was being proudly displayed at the Melbourne International Exhibition at the time of the Albury celebrations.

NSW Rolling Stock Impresses

By demonstrating the colony’s manufacturing ability at the Exhibition the Victorians unwittingly revealed their paucity in engineering design. Also on display at the Melbourne Exhibition was one of Hudson Brothers new Pullman sleepers to show Victorians ‘one of New South Wales’s common railway carriages, and …the style in which travelling is now carried out in the parent colony’.[155] The fact that most NSW rolling stock was as bad as or worse than Victoria’s[156] was beside the point, for the trains from Sydney shouted that rolling stock design had moved on, and Victoria was lagging.

While inter-colonial passengers and mail continued to make their way over the Murray River between Albury and Wodonga in horse drawn wagonettes and drags, the governments of NSW and Victoria dilly dallied. A whole year elapsed before a conference of senior Ministers and railway officers was arranged to decide if Albury or Wodonga would be the break-of-gauge station, and how the line and bridge would be financed. In typical inter-colonial blundering, the meeting which was to have taken place in Albury in February 1882 was aborted because the NSW Minister of Public Works had a conflicting appointment! So at considerable expense a special train was laid on to take the Victorian delegation to Sydney.[157]

Aboard the special were Bent, then the Commissioner of Railways, accompanied by his mentor Woods, the Commissioner of Trade and Customs, J. H. Graves, the Victorian Railways Traffic Manager, John Anderson, Locomotive Superintendent, Mirls and Engineer for Construction, R.G. Ford. Woods no longer had any formal connection with the Railway Department, but he was effectively a Commissioner of Railways emeritus. ‘You can never make a call at [Bent’s] department without finding Woods about’ was an observation at the time.[158] Graves was there because intercolonial passengers and goods had to submit to a customs examination, and he also wanted to personally investigate the cross-border smuggling which was rife near Albury!

The Victorian Railways Engineer-in-Chief was pointedly absent, Bent and Woods preferring to have Ford along instead of Elsdon, despite Ford being suspended at the time. He was a logical choice due to his bridge expertise and friendship with Bent and Woods, but Elsdon must have felt the snub. Some months later a contract was awarded to Alexander Frew to continue the track to the Murray and build the bridge.[159] Frew had built the line into Albury and might have kept going to Wodonga, given an earlier agreement between the governments, but now he had to mobilise resources afresh at extra cost.

Just as happened at Echuca, a temporary wooden bridge was built to provide the link while the permanent wrought iron lattice girder structure was being erected.[160] In the meantime the Victorians gave thought to the need for a first class express. During their visit to Sydney for negotiations on bridging the Murray to join the two railways, the Victorian delegation took the opportunity to visit the Hudson Brothers rolling stock works at Redfern. [161] It was an impressive establishment, with orders for hundreds of carriages and wagons for the NSW Railways. Hudson boasted that he could make a goods truck in three hours, and his workshops were larger than any Victorian rolling stock maker.[162]

Hudson could have supplied the Victorian Railways with rolling stock cheaper than any establishment in Victoria or overseas, even after paying the customs duty imposed by Victoria on imports from NSW. His manufacturing prowess was put down to the NSW policy of free trade, which lowered the cost of importing iron and steel components such as wheels and axles from England. But protectionist Victoria imposed tariff barriers on similar imports and also had higher labour costs.[163] This point was not lost on Bent and Woods as they toured the Hudson works.

Bent was not a dedicated protectionist,[164] and Woods was pragmatic enough to ignore ideology when it suited. Although Woods was no longer in charge of the railways, they remained his passion. His interest in the Hudson works was more than political; at the time of his visit he was supervising the construction of a carriage to his own design at the Victorian Railway’s Yarra Bank workshop. He had no drawings and came to the workshop three or four mornings a week to supervise the artisans! Only one carriage was made to his design. It must have been evident to the Victorians that the strides made by NSW were due to the importation of modern locomotives and carriages from England and America, which provided the pattern for colonial copies.

Woods’ end-loading centre-isle 1st/2nd class composite carriage 1881. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch.

Train lighting in NSW was vastly superior, as by 1882 gas lighting had been widely adopted.[165] In Victoria some initial experiments with gas lighting had been made on two American saloons in the second half of 1879,[166] followed by a contract for twelve more in February 1881.[167] But most carriages were lit by a single lamp in the ceiling of each compartment. Many were oil lamps, and it was not uncommon for them to burn so dimly that reading was impossible.[168] In 1875 Woods had instituted a program of replacing oil lamps with brighter kerosene lamps,[169] but progress was slow.[170] It would be many years before Victorian trains were brightly lit at night.

Seeking Better Carriages

Victoria had been fixated on light lines, but now that the focus was shifting to the intercolonial main line the available locomotives and carriages were found wanting. All the locomotives were small. The most powerful express engines were the B class 2-4-0s, which exerting about 9,600 lbs tractive effort. This was enough to drag a 140 ton train up the 1 in 50 ruling grades over the Great Divide.[171] That meant a train of eight little four wheeled carriages, dimly lit with seating for about 300 passengers, packed tight like sardines.[172] The country carriages were typically 24-25 feet long, with low ceilings and four compartments each about 6 feet long, and with no toilets. Suburban cars of the same length squeezed in five compartments, each just 4’4½” in length, which must have been a torture for tall and stout passengers and those that had to endure the journey with them!

Nevertheless, Bent had orders placed locally for dozens of these dreadful vehicles, as they provided a quick fix to the problem of growing traffic. Traffic Manager Anderson complained in December 1881 that there were only 67 carriages suitable for the whole of the county traffic. A traveller reporting a journey by train from Sydney to Melbourne soon after the line to Albury was opened in 1881 was disappointed with the Victorian rolling stock. After crossing the Murray River by road from Albury, setting his watch back 25 minutes to Victorian time and enduring a customs inspection, he and his companions arrived at Wodonga and ‘secured a first-class carriage to ourselves, but we found it very much inferior to the one we had on the New South Wales line. The whole of the carriages appeared to us antiquated and uncomfortable.’ [173]

The Victorian carriage stock was supplemented by the euphemistically named ‘seated trucks’. These were goods trucks fitted with seats borrowed from station platforms. There were 38 of these in regular service, with a further 185 temporarily fitted with seats during seasons of high demand.[174] In the circumstances Bent’s decision to build more four-wheelers is understandable, as many people could be crammed into trains of half a dozen or so cars without overburdening the small locomotives.

The difficulty posed by larger American bogie carriages was not only their extra weight, but the reduced ability to closely match the number of seats provided to the number of passengers travelling. There was much talk about the ‘dead weight’ of bogie carriages when they were only partially occupied, whereas with the small four-wheelers, an empty carriage could be left behind, reducing the train load and the locomotive’s consumption of coal.

But the prestige intercolonial trains warranted something better. Bent and Woods probably heard about the special train of Pullman sleeping cars and other bogie carriages put on for the opening of the railway to Dubbo, NSW, just two days before the same train was used for the opening of the line to Albury in 1881. The weight of the big American cars required two locomotives, but they really struggled on the Blue Mountains gradients, stopping on occasion to raise steam.[175] With no need for sleeping cars on the 200 mile journey from Melbourne to Albury, the Victorians opted for a compromise.

To obtain the most up to date British designs, Bent placed orders for 70 six wheelers with 30 foot bodies from the Birmingham firm Brown, Marshall and Co. These were to designs of William Stroudley,[176] Locomotive Superintendent of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and a leading mechanical engineer of his time.[177] The 1st class versions had four spacious compartments. The 2nd class versions had five compartments and seated 50 passengers. Yet the comfort of the 2nd class cars still equated to the best existing Victorian Railways carriages. The protectionists were outraged such an order had gone overseas, but Bent brushed them off.

A NSW Pullman car of 1880 compared with the VR Stroudley car ordered by Bent in 1883.

As soon as the Stroudley cars began to arrive in January 1883,[178] The Age mounted a campaign denigrating their construction. The newspaper was critical of Mirls for accepting them,[179] but typically failed to mention that local builders were busy with contracts for 1,665 wagons, 300 carriages and 66 locomotives.[180] Instead it indulged in a flurry of carping nit picking. There were indeed faults with the new imports, with some minor cracking in some timber panels and ventilators which needed covers to prevent the ingress of rain. The most serious fault was the centre-line of the buffers being higher than the Victorian standard.[181]

This and other teething problems of the Stroudley cars were soon rectified by the workshops, and the basic soundness of the design was confirmed when twenty four very similar carriages were ordered from the local firm of W. Williams in 1886.[182] They were soon running on the most important trains, including the intercolonial express linking the Victorian and NSW railways at Albury. So superior were they to existing stock that 41 of the second class carriages were ‘converted’ to first class by the simple expedient of a sign-writers brush. Their public acceptance forced The Age to make a volte-face. After six months of denigration they were promoting their use on all long distance services.[183]

Seeking Better Locomotives

The new carriages on order for the intercolonial express were heavier, which meant a more powerful express locomotive would be needed, but Victoria had lost its locomotive design capability when Meikle returned to England in 1877. Mirls, his successor in charge of the Locomotive Branch, was a capable draughtsman but his appointment had been opposed by several newspapers on account of his perceived lack of engineering experience.[184] But he could certainly turn his hand to carriages and wagons. He had designed all the rolling stock for the D&MR,[185] and won a £200 prize in 1876 for the design of 1st and 2nd class bogie carriages.[186]

Possibly Mirls’ most significant carriage designs were the twin State cars built in 1880 for the planned visit of the Prince of Wales to open the Melbourne International Exhibition. Woods had directed their design while he was still Commissioner, and had Mirls mount them on India rubber pads to minimise vibration – an innovation Woods had been sold by the rubber company’s agent.[187] In the event the Prince didn’t show up, but Woods, in his role as a commissioner of the Melbourne International Exhibition, arranged for Mirls’ masterpieces to be taken to the Machinery Court[188]

Phoenix Foundry No.188 and Williamstown Workshops No.129 with Solomon Mirls’ twin State cars at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Ludovico Hart, Museums Victoria 1563077.

The State cars were displayed along with the Phoenix built 2-4-0 No. 188,[189] and Williamstown Workshops’ 0-6-0 No. 129.[190] As examples of the prowess of colonial manufacturing, the carriages and locomotives were impressive, but the designs were obsolete. With more light lines being opened, there was an urgent need to find more powerful locomotives to work them. During preparations for the International Exhibition, Commissioner Woods received a visit from a Dr. Williams, a representative of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia.

Williams advertised Baldwin’s capacity to build 40 locomotives in 60 days, as they had recently done with an order from the Russian government. Baldwin was one of the world’s largest locomotive builders, but when the civil war between the American states ended in 1865, their locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers were inundated with work rebuilding and extending railroads within the USA. It was not until the mid-1870’s that American locomotive and rolling stock builders began to seek business on the world stage, and it was such a mission that brought Dr. Williams to Melbourne.

Woods was persuaded to purchase two Baldwin 4-6-0 ‘Ten Wheelers’ as pattern engines. They arrived in early 1880 and rather than being shown in the International Exhibition where they would have turned many heads, they were immediately put to work. After experience with Meikle’s ‘Buzzwinkers’, the railways had settled on the Beyer Peacock light 2-4-0 and twenty of these F class engines were built by Phoenix from 1976 to 1880, together with eight of Meikle’s light lines H class 4-4-0. These little engines could exert about 8,300 lbs tractive effort, and had axle loads of 9½ to 10½ tons.

The Baldwin 4-6-0 ‘Ten Wheeler’ spread its weight over five axles instead of three, reducing their axle load to 8¾ tons or about seven per cent less than the F and H classes. Yet they exerted a tractive effort of 12,050 lbs, nearly 50 per cent greater.[191] Clearly, this was the light lines locomotive the Victorians had been looking for over the past decade. They were specifically designed for hauling mixed trains over 50 lb iron rails, but the colonists had been too blinded by the narrow gauge disciples, British prejudice and protectionist ideology.

The Baldwin engines (later classified W class) were of equivalent power to the Rogers D class 4-4-0s imported three years earlier. The Ten Wheelers were easily the most powerful light lines locomotive of the twelve different engine classes at work on the light lines. Yet save only the tiny G&MR rebuilds, they were the most light footed.[192]

But despite a serious locomotive shortage it was sixteen months before another order for new light lines engines was placed. This was due to the Berry governments brake on expenditure following ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878. Not until June 1881 was a contract made with Phoenix for ten near copies of the Baldwin engines.

Phoenix had never made anything like the American ‘Ten Wheeler’, and it took some time for Mirls to adapt the Baldwin design for local manufacture. It then took 15 months for Phoenix to deliver the first of these ‘Colonial Yankees’.[193] Phoenix was also busy with an order Patterson had placed for 20 main line 0-6-0s, copied from a Beyer Peacock pattern engine ordered by Woods in 1878.[194] These became the R class, and were somewhat larger and heavier than the T class pattern 0-6-0 supplied by the same firm five years earlier, which had remained an orphan. The pattern R class 0-6-0 became the basis of 55 copies built by Phoenix from 1881 to 1886. They exerted about 30 per cent more tractive effort than the little F class 2-4-0s, but with an axle load of 11¾ tons they were still too heavy for lines laid with 50 lb iron rails.

Phoenix had a full order book, so Woods signed a contract with Robinson Bros., of South Melbourne for eight suburban tank locomotives.[195] The first locomotives built by that firm, they were copies of a ten year old 4-4-0 well-tank design built for the M&HBUR by Robert Stephenson of Newcastle-on-Tyne. They were needed to cope with growing suburban traffic after the government takeover of the Hobson’s Bay lines.[196] Shortages of locomotive and wagons led to the failure to clear the 1881/82 wheat crop. Some of the remaining bagged wheat upcountry suffered weather damage and the ensuing criticism by farmers was soon felt in parliament.

Bent responded with a cunning subterfuge to quieten the farmers and work around the protectionists.[197] Pleading the urgency for more light lines engines to handle the following season’s harvest, and drawing attention to the full order books of local builders, he placed an order for ten more W class ‘Ten Wheelers’ with Baldwin, together with five heavy goods 0-6-0s from the Belgian Manufacturing and Export Company and ten ‘heavy goods’ engines which were to be ‘especially adapted for the heavy traffic of the North-Eastern line’ by Beyer Peacock.[198] The orders were placed in mid-August 1882, but the ‘heavy goods’ engines from Beyer Peacock were in fact express 4-4-0s with six foot diameter driving wheels! [199]

Baldwin ‘Ten Wheeler’ W221 with a mixed train at Lancefield. The low centre of gravity and easily accessible machinery of these locomotives is evident. Lancefield Railway Station Gallery.

By the time the farmers and protectionists twigged that none would arrive in time for the 1882/83 harvest it was too late. The Age bemoaned ‘there is no more chance of their arriving here and being fitted up to carry this season’s traffic than there is of turning the moon from its orbit by the use of popguns.’ [200] Bent coolly deflected the hail of criticism. The Leader editorialised that the ‘gross dishonesty of his proceeding thus fully discloses itself… The Assembly has been tricked; the country has been cheated; our manufacturing artisans have been defrauded, and the farmers especially have been sold by Mr. Bent simply to benefit the foreign importer.’ [201]

While in Sydney for negotiating the Murray River crossing at Albury, Bent and Mirls had learned the NSW Railways had ordered some 4-4-0 express locomotives from Beyer Peacock. These became the 255 class ‘High Flyers’, and the six were delivered in late 1882. Rather than develop specifications for an express engine of their own, the Victorians sensibly ordered broad gauge versions of the 255 class from Beyer Peacock. The NSW engines were ready for the celebrations at Albury when the lines of the two colonies met in 1883, but the Victorian order was delayed and the special trains from Melbourne were entrusted to old Sturrock B class 2-4-0’s.[202]

Seeking Better Workshops

The workshops themselves were Mirls’ greatest concern, and he lobbied for years for their improvement.[203] By August 1882 the Victorian Railways was operating over 230 locomotives and 3,800 carriages and wagons, with many more being added annually to service new lines and growing traffic. An exasperated Mirls pleaded that his workshops were ‘a scattered lot of corrugated iron sheds, located near the piers at Williamstown, ill-devised, erected piecemeal, scattered about in all directions, occasioning great loss of workmen’s time, delay in the expeditious execution of urgent repairs, and severely hampering the conduct of traffic to the shipping at the various piers.’ [204]

The workshops had expanded to both sides of the line to Williamstown Pier, so that long goods trains for the Pier often blocked access from one side of the Shops to the other. During Woods’ incumbency as Commissioner of Railways he had sought £300,000 for a new workshop in the triangle of land owned by the railways where the Williamstown and Geelong lines diverged. That sum was enough to fund about 100 miles of new light lines, so with the severe restrictions on spending imposed by the Berry government after ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878 the matter was deferred.

The ‘Berry Blight’ put a brake on government spending and caused an ensuing depression.[205] Over 500 railwaymen were laid off and a halt put on new rolling stock construction. Several privately owned workshops closed,[206] including the extensive facilities of William Williams’s Yarra Bank Workshops, which had been primarily devoted to rolling stock construction since 1862.[207] Williams offered his facilities for the use of the government in August 1878 at no cost as a means of re-employing artisans thrown out of work,[208] but Woods had the Railway Department lease them instead.[209]

A year later, in one of Woods’ last acts while Commissioner of Railways, he arranged the purchase of the Yarra Bank works outright for £14,000,[210] and required the Locomotive Branch to absorb over 100 of the Yarra Bank employees.[211] The purchase was seen as one of the ‘more glaring jobs perpetrated by the [Berry] Ministry, in disregard of public opinion, in defiance of morality, and in disdain of every consideration of decency and propriety’.[212] The Berry government was defeated in March 1880, leaving the railways saddled three inefficient workshops: Williamstown, Yarra Bank and Sandridge, the latter absorbed in the M&HBUR takeover.

After the Jolimont accident the Yarra Bank workshop was inundated with work to bring the old M&HBUR fleet up to Victorian Railways standards. In the six months to March 1882 the Yarra Bank and Williamstown workshops made thorough overhauls of 64 carriages, including the fitting of new standard wheels and axles, axle boxes, guard irons, drawbars, and running gear, together with general body repairs. Along with the resumption of new rolling stock construction, this left the workshops ‘nearly blocked with work’.[213] With 68 new carriages planned for 1882, including 30 to Mirls’ own design, the situation was critical.

Williamstown Workshops in August 1883. With just two sheds twenty two years earlier, it had expanded into a chaotic, inefficient jumble. C. Rudd, PROV H2338.

Furthermore, the rapid expansion of the railway network without adequate provision for rolling stock was also creating problems for farmers. Stacks of bagged wheat at upcountry sidings were exposed to weather damage because there were not enough trucks available, and the grain storage facilities at the ports were clogged.[214] But a solution presented itself on the closure of the Melbourne International Exhibition at the end of April 1881. Three of the Annexes were available for other use. One was re-erected at Sandridge, to replace the old M&HBUR workshop, one was moved to the Spencer Street goods terminal and became No. 5 Shed, and the last was re-erected on railway land at Newport. [215]

However the relocation of these shed took some time, so throughout 1881 and the first half of 1882 Mirls had to soldier on with his scattered facilities. Re-erection of the annex at Newport was complete by June 1882, and some months later £3,000 of new machinery arrived from the USA which revolutionised carriage building. To this was added machinery transferred from the carriage building shops at Yarra Bank and Williamstown. The Yarra Bank workshops were then vacated for the expansion of the Melbourne Goods yard, and the Williamstown carriage shop was converted for much needed grain storage.

It was an encouraging start, but Mirls pointed out that that the erection of the new sheds at Sandridge and Newport had been neutralised by the loss of Yarra Bank and one of the Williamstown shops.[216] Carriage and wagon building had been catered for, but the growing locomotive fleet was demanding better facilities. Many of the locomotives were approaching twenty years in service, and some were older.

Mirls was disturbed when he inspected the ex-Hobson’s Bay engines, which had been maintained at Sandridge. He found no records had been kept, no periodical cleaning of safety valves and no testing of pressure gauges. Alarmed, he directed that no vehicle was to leave the Sandridge shop without his personal approval, and ordered three locomotives to be sent to Williamstown for overhaul.[217] Bent was persuaded to seek parliamentary approval for a new locomotive workshop on reserved land at Newport, and sought £48,000 for that purpose in his railway Construction Bill.[218] But the politicians prevaricated.

Seeking Better Safeworking

Railway interlocking mechanically prevented signals from displaying a ‘clear’ aspect contrary to the position of points or level crossing gates. The first interlocking in Victoria was provided by the M&HBUR at Swan Street, Richmond in July 1874. An elevated signal box was provided and Saxby & Farmer’s equipment used to control the gates and signals.[219] Six months after Higinbotham’s return from overseas, the Victorian railways installed its first interlocking of signals and points (turnouts and crossovers) at Essendon Junction on the down side of North Melbourne. It was opened with some ceremony on 1st July 1876. At the time there were 130 to 140 train movements at that location daily. It was the first of five junctions between Spencer Street and North Melbourne to be interlocked with equipment shipped by the Worcester firm of McKenzie & Holland, who sent an engineer out to supervise the installations.[220]

It was a good start but not sufficient to prevent the head on collision of an up Essendon train which a pointsman had turned into the path of a departing Williamstown service. The accident occurred on 11th June 1877 and despite the trains moving slowly their hand brakes were ineffective. Throwing the engines into reverse the two drivers managed to reduce the force of the impact, but nine passengers required surgery.[221] The accident led to calls for more interlocking.[222]

Woods was then Commissioner and had adopted Watson and Ford’s plan for the rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, all of which was to be interlocked and controlled from one large signal box.[223] Enough equipment was purchased from McKenzie & Holland for this, together with smaller interlockings at West Geelong Junction, Footscray and Williamstown. In total some 280 levers in these interlockings were connected to points and signals.[224]

The largest was at the new No. 1 Signal Box at Spencer Street, opened by Woods on 28th October 1878. It had 70 levers, of which 31 controlled signals and 39 points. The lever frame was 35 feet long and worked by four signalmen. During their six hour shifts they were kept walking backwards and forwards, pulling levers that required an average 14 lb pressure, ‘playing upon the apparatus as if it were some gigantic musical instrument.’ [225] (By comparison, the interlocking at York in England had 370 levers).[226]

New Interlocking Apparatus at Spencer Street, 1878. Australasian Sketcher, 28 September 1878, p.100.

No. 1 Signal Box was part of the complete rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, which continued for another year or so, but by Melbourne Cup Day 1880 the new arrangements enabled 56,500 people to take trains from Spencer Street to Flemington Racecourse. This was an increase of 33 percent in just two years, yet the railways managed well and without incident.[227] Although Higinbotham had introduced interlocking on the Victorian Railways, he was fiercely opposed to rearrangement of the Spencer Street yard, but to no avail.

The sacking of Higinbotham in the Black Wednesday purge is detailed in Chapter Five. At that time the signalling work was incomplete, and the financial strictures that followed the purge of public servants stymied investment, including fifty more locations where interlocking was needed. Had the work been completed, a derailment at Dudley Street may have been averted, but the signalling and trackwork were inadequate.[228] Berry took up office in May 1877 with a £200,000 surplus in Treasury but three years later the ‘Berry Blight’ had left the colonies coffers half a million short, despite increased taxation.[229]

The derailment and overturning of 0-6-0 No. 149 near Dudley Street, West Melbourne after passing a danger signal. 1st January 1879. Higinbotham’s engine sheds are in the background. The whole area behind the engine was later filled with reclaimed swamp silt for extensions of Melbourne goods yard. SLV FL20669149.

Historian Geoffrey Blainey postulated that the upheaval during the 1878-80 constitutional crisis which was accompanied by a downturn in business and a rural recession led many landholders and farmers to withhold support for the police trying to hunt down the Kelly gang of bushrangers.[230] Political turmoil continued throughout 1880, with two elections and three Ministries. So funding for interlocking remained a mere trickle.

Less than £800 was provided for interlocking equipment at a few small country locations.[231] Bent was appointed Commissioner of Railways in July 1881 and let the interlocking plans gather dust. This in spite of the accidents at Jolimont in August 1881 and Windsor in March 1882. Bent’s energies were dissipated trying to extend the network, not to make it safer. But the outcry after the Hawthorn accident on 2nd December 1882 finally forced him to commit to interlockings on the former Hobson’s Bay lines.

Contracts were soon let for four signal boxes and associated interlocking in the busy Flinders Street-Jolimont area, and at St Kilda.[232] But that was all. For most of the five years between 1878 and 1883 interlocking projects were on hold despite goods traffic doubling and passenger traffic growing seven fold.[233] But communications fared somewhat better.

Railways and the telegraph grew up together in the Australasian colonies, the first electric telegraph messages being made between Melbourne and Williamstown just six months before the M&HBR opened the first railway between Elizabeth Street and Sandridge in September 1854.[234] But twenty five years passed before Woods created the Telegraph Branch under Kynaston Lathrop Murray. The newly created branch had a single minded focus so the extension of the railways’ own communications was uninterrupted. On the other hand, interlockings were just one of the extensive and varied responsibilities of the Engineer for Existing Lines and progress on that front was slow.

In 1880 Murray trialled several kinds of block signalling apparatus and was impressed with that patented by Craik & Winter, which was being extensively used in India.[235] During 1881 funds were found to string a second telegraph wire between Melbourne and Seymour, and new railway telegraph lines were erected to Lancefield, Numurkah and Mordialloc: 120 miles in all. That year signals in the Melbourne area were electrically connected to signal boxes, giving signalmen a positive indication of each signal’s status.

A start was also made in linking signal boxes by telephone as an aid to safeworking, [236] and in 1882 the Victorian Railways installed its own telephone exchange, initially with about 50 lines connecting the offices at Spencer Street and Flinders Street, where it was a ‘valuable aid to business’.[237]

Extending the railway telegraph proceeded during 1883 and Winter’s double line block instruments were installed from Flinders Street to Elsternwick.[238] This replaced the telegraphic block system that required signalmen to send a Morse Code message advising the section or ‘block’ between two stations was clear. The message had to be written out or remembered, which took time. Worse, it might be forgotten.

The new Winter’s instruments were electrically connected, with dials displaying whether or not a train was occupying a block. Bell codes were used to request permission to send a train into a block, and advise of the trains’ departure and arrival. It was faster and much more definite than the telegraph and a great improvement, but it did not prevent the accident at Windsor in 1887. Block working depended on trained and disciplined signalmen. Weaning railwaymen from old ways was to take some years, and a new approach to railway management.

High resolution versions of some of the photographs in this chapter may be found on Smugmug


End Notes

  1. Victorian Parliamentary Debates (VPD), 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1103. 8 December 1881.
  2. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1106.
  3. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1105.
  4. ‘Mr. R.G. Ford, Engineer for Construction, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, p. xvi.
  5. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1103.
  6. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1109.
  7. Portland Guardian, 16 September 1880, p2.
  8. James A. Lerk. Robert Gray Ford: Colonial blacksmith, inventor, engineer and one time Bendigonian. Bendigo, 2007, pp. 4-8.
  9. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Q. 3123.
  10. ibid, Q. 146.
  11. Bendigo Advertiser, 28 December 1875, p. 3. The first crossing of the temporary bridge by locomotives, with Watson and Ford in attendance, occurred on 22nd December 1875.
    Bendigo Advertiser, 27 July 1878, p. 3. Notes the first crossing of the permanent bridge by locomotives on 26th July 1878.
  12. Bendigo Advertiser, 28 December 1875, p. 3.
  13. G.H. Eardly, The Deniliquin and Moama Railway Company, ARHS Bulletin, No. 280, February 1961, pp. 21-25.
  14. Age, 5 December 1893, p. 5. John McIntosh’s evidence in the Speight versus Syme case. McIntosh was a surveyor, who served under Thomas Higinbotham, George Darbyshire and Robert Watson.
  15. Lerk, pp. 36-42.
  16. Geelong Advertiser, 24 November 1891, p. 2.
  17. Bendigo Advertiser, 4 April 1868, p. 2, reports the first trial of the machine at Castlemaine. Work continued on perfecting and commissioning the machine over the subsequent decade.
    Argus, 9 December 1881, p. 9. Ford was working on the machine in the railway offices ‘out of hours’ in 1880.
  18. Age, 2 October 1876, p. 2.
  19. Argus, 27 December 1879, p. 9.
  20. Argus, 28 September 1877, p. 2.
    Argus, 28 August 1880, p. 1. Ford’s eldest daughter Elizabeth was married at Whitmuir Hall on 19th August 1880.
  21. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, pp. 162-63.
    Argus, 9 December 1881, p. 9.
  22. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, p. 155.
  23. Age, 29 November 1879, p. 5.
  24. Age, 31 October 1879, p. 6.
    VPD, 1879, Vol. 31, 30 October, p. 1668, Vol. 32, 6 November, p. 1741; 18 November, p. 1857. The Spencer and Flinders Street Junction Railway Bill.
    Age, 29 November 1879, p. 5; 22 December 1879, p. 3.
    Argus, 23 December 1879, p. 5. Opened for goods traffic only on 23 December.
  25. Portland Guardian, 16 September 1880, p. 2.
  26. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Q. 2584. Singleton said, ‘Mr. Ford has not spoken to me since some time previous to Mr. Higinbotham’s death, and I never speak to him’.
  27. Argus, 9 December 1881, p. 4.
  28. Argus, 9 December 1881, p. 9.
  29. Argus, 31 July 1880, p. 6.
  30. Kyneton Guardian, 29 December 1880, p. 3.
    Age, 19 January 1881, p. 2.
    Australasian, 16 July 1881, p. 5. The survey team consisted of four surveyors, five assistants including two aborigines, 45 horses, and a wagon. Watson fell sick at Aramac.
  31. Age, 18 September 1880, p. 4.
  32. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 252. Mr. R. Clark on 10 May 1882.
  33. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 106. Mr. John Woods on 2 May 1882.
  34. Argus, 11 March 1904, p. 6.
  35. Correspondence and Return Relative to Proposed Lines of Railway, VPP 1873, No. 86.
    Negotiations between the Government of Victoria and the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay United Railway Company for the Purchase of their Property, VPP 1876, No. 53.
  36. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Q. 7392.
  37. Lerk, p. 34.
    R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Q. 7062.
  38. ibid, p. 155.
  39. ibid, pp. 60-61. General Draftsman J. T. Thompson’s evidence.
  40. Argus, 8 July 1882, p. 13.
  41. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Q. 1553.
  42. ibid, Questions 763, 1891.
  43. ibid, Questions 3102-3108.
  44. ibid, Findings. p. ix.
  45. ibid, p. x.
  46. ibid, pp. x–xi.
  47. ibid, Q. 5283.
  48. ibid, Questions 5362-5364.
  49. H.G. Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria, Volume II, 1854-1900, London, 1904, pp. 242, 244.
  50. S.M. Ingham, ‘Sir Bryan O’Loghlen’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, 1974.
  51. Turner, p. 244.
  52. R.L. Wettenhall, Railway Management and Politics in Victoria 1856 -1906, Canberra, 1961, p. 16.
  53. ibid, p. 22.
  54. Argus, 18 September 1909, p. 19.
    Herald, 17 September 1909, p. 5.
  55. Argus, 13 October 1881, p. 9.
  56. ibid.
  57. ibid.
  58. ibid.
  59. ibid.
  60. ibid, Appendix A. p. 215.
  61. Leo Harrigan, Victorian Railways to ’62, Victorian Railways, 1962, p. 177.
  62. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1097.
  63. Argus, 27 September 1881, p. 6.
  64. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, pp. 1101, 1110.
  65. ibid.
  66. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1103.
  67. Argus, 9 December 1881, p. 4.
  68. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1110.
  69. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1103.
  70. VPD, 1881, Vol. 38, p. 1110.
  71. Argus, 1 June 1882, p. 9.
  72. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 106.
  73. Argus, 1 June 1882, p. 9.
  74. Argus, 27 January 1882, p. 5.
    Argus, 28 October 1880, p. 36. The M&HBUR had installed Saxby & Farmer equipment in the Swan Street signal box prior to their take-over by the Victorian Railways.
  75. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No. 33, Appendix A.
  76. ibid, Q. 7377.
  77. Hamilton Spectator, 16 February 1882, p. 2.
  78. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No.33, pp. ii, 215.
  79. ibid, p. 12.
  80. ibid, p. vi.
  81. ibid, pp. 13-14.
  82. ibid, p. xiii.
  83. ibid, p. 83, Q. 3121 (1 Jan 1872 £500 to £600); Q. 3122 8 May 1874 £600 to £700).
  84. See Chapter 5.
  85. R.G. Ford, VPP 1882-83, No.33, p. 58, Q. 2234.
  86. Argus, 7 July 1882, pp. 4, 9.
  87. Age, 3 August 1882, p. 2.
  88. Age, 25 July 1882, p. 2.
    Argus, 31 August 1887, p. 7.
  89. Age, 19 September 1882, p. 3.
  90. Argus, 26 July 1882, p. 4.
  91. Age, 19 September 1882, p. 3.
  92. Argus, 4 August 1887, p. 4; 9 August 1887, p. 5; 31 August 1887, p. 7. The latter article details a litany of Ford’s failures to provide the requested plans and specifications.
  93. Lerk, p. 43.
    Age, 16 December 1891, p. 4.
  94. Wettenhall, p. 17.
  95. Public Departments – Persons Employed In and Promoted Since 1st July 1881, Victorian Parliamentary Papers (VPP), 1882-83, Vol. 1, C.14.
    W.R. Martin, Engineer for Surveys, promoted from £600 to £650 on 1st August 1881.
  96. Public Departments, VPP, 1882-83, Vol. 1, C.14. G.C. Darbyshire was promoted from £600 to £750 as Engineer for Surveys on 13th April 1882.
  97. Argus, 2 February 1891, p. 8.
  98. VPD, 1881, Vol. 37, pp. 364, 1207, 1219, 1227.
  99. ibid, p. 1221.
  100. ibid.
  101. ibid, p. 1224. Bent was confused. The wheel load was 3 tons, the axle load was 6 tons.
  102. ibid, p. 1211.
  103. ibid.
  104. ibid.
  105. Age, 14 June 1882, p. 6.
  106. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, pp. 129-130, 2 May; p. 139, 3 May. Charges were made by Mr. Fincham.
  107. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 48. 28 April.
    Argus, 19 December 1878, p. 4.
  108. Argus, 8 April 1882, p. 8.
  109. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 196.
  110. Argus, 1 June 1882, p. 9.
  111. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 153.
  112. Age, 2 May 1882, p. 2.
  113. Argus, 14 April 1882, p. 9.
  114. Harrigan, p. 248.
  115. Argus, 1 August 1883, p. 9.
  116. VPD, 1882, Vol. 39, p. 130. 2nd May.
  117. Melbourne Punch, 13 April 1882, p. 8.
  118. Argus, 12 April 1882, p. 6.
  119. Melbourne Punch, 23 February 1893, p. 14. William Henry Greene is usually referred to as ‘W.H. Greene’, but his wife was Mrs. William Greene. Therefore when addressed by his Christian name it would have been William.
  120. Argus, 12 April 1882, p. 6.
  121. Argus, 8 September 1880, p6. The others included former Premier, Sir James McCulloch, and fellow railway managers Wells, the Acting Engineer-in-Chief, and Francis, Traffic Manager.
  122. Age, 26 September 1881, p. 2.
  123. Argus, 28 March 1881, p. 1.
  124. Harrigan, pp. 277-78.
  125. Age, 25 April 1882, p. 1.
  126. Age, 25 April 1882, p. 1.
    Kyneton Observer, 17 February 1877, p. 2.
  127. Age, 14 April 1882, p. 2.
  128. Argus, 19 May 1882, p. 9.
  129. Argus, 8 June 1882, p. 6.
  130. Age, 8 June 1882, p. 2.
  131. Argus, 18 August 1882, p. 14.
  132. Age, 20 March 1882, p. 2.
  133. Argus, 20 March 1882, p. 4.
  134. Argus, 4 December 1882, pp. 4, 6.
    Harrigan, p. 274.
    Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 1882, p. 9.
  135. VPD, 1882, Vol. 41, p. 2873.
  136. Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31st December 1881, VPP 1882-83, No. 48, p. 10.
    Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No. 35, p. 15.
  137. Argus, 31 January 1883, p. 6.
  138. VPD, 1882, Vol. 41. Notice of Prorogation of Parliament at the rear of the volume.
  139. Melbourne Punch, 9 February 1882, p. 6.
  140. Argus, 5 March 1883, p. 4.
  141. Argus, 4 April 1892, p. 5.
  142. K.A. Austin, The Lights of Cobb & Co, Sydney, 1976, pp. 139-143.
  143. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1877, p. 4 Also, Australian Town and Country Journal, 8 December 1877, p. 18; 15 December 1877, p. 18.
  144. Argus, 13 July 1876, p. 4. Also, Evening News, 24 May 1879, p. 3.
  145. Argus, 4 February 1878, p. 5. The RMSS Tanjore arrived in Melbourne at 7 am on Saturday 2nd February 1878, and the 81 bags of mail for Sydney were forwarded by special train to Wodonga that same evening.
  146. The line reached North Wagga Wagga (later renamed Bomen) on 3 September 1878, but another year elapsed before the Murrumbidgee River was bridged to take the railway into Wagga Wagga proper.
  147. Evening News, 24 May 1879, p. 3. Also, Australian Town and Country Journal, 17 November 1877, p. 33.
  148. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 1881, p. 5.
  149. David Cooke, Don Estell, Keith Seckold, John Beckhaus and Dennis Toohey Coaching Stock of the NSW Railways, Eveleigh Press, Sydney, 1999, pp. 64-5. This was the radial six-wheeler No.16, built in 1870. The centre axle was fixed but the two outer axles could swing when the car traversed a curve.
  150. Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 February 1881, p. 6.
  151. L.A. Clark, Passenger Cars of the NSWR, Canberra, 1972, p. 22.
  152. Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 1882, p. 3.
  153. Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 1881, p. 7.
  154. Robert Lee, Colonial Engineer: John Whitton 1819-1898 and the Building of Australia’s Railways, Sydney, 2000, Chapter Seven.
  155. Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 25 September 1880, p. 610.
  156. Australian Town and Country Journal, 14 December 1878, p. 18.
  157. Australasian, 22 January 1887, p. 29. The cost a special mail train from Adelaide to Melbourne was £200 for just over 500 miles. Albury-Sydney was about 400 miles. A gatekeeper’s cottage could be built for a little over £100 (Victorian Railways Annual Report 1881, p. 26 – Contract 1407).
  158. Goulburn Herald, 16 February 1882, p. 3.
    Weekly Times, 18 February 1882, p. 17.
  159. Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 1882, p. 7.
  160. Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 5 September 1882, p. 5. The line on the Victorian side was contracted to Mitchell, Newell and Dalgleish. Nearly a quarter of its length was on wooden trestle bridging over the swamps and Wodonga Creek.
  161. Goulburn Herald, 16 February 1882, p. 3.
  162. Ballarat Courier, 26 March 1879, p. 2.
  163. Argus, 25 June 1883, p. 6.
  164. Age, 17 April 1882, p. 3.
  165. Evening News, 23 May 1879, p. 3.
    Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 27 May 1879, p. 7; 27 August 1881, p. 4.
    Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 16 December 1881, p. 3.
  166. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1879, VPP 1880-81, No. 14, p. 26. Contract let to A. Dempster.
  167. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882., VPP 1883, No. 35, p. 50. Contract let to A. Dempster.
  168. Geelong Advertiser, 3 May 1882, p. 2.
  169. Age, 6 September 1875, p. 2.
  170. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1876., VPP 1876, No. 49, Appendix 3, p. 18. 100 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1877, VPP 1878, No. 6, Appendix 3, p. 33. 300 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1880, VPP 1881, No. 20, Appendix 4, p. 23. 200 kerosene lamps ordered. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1881, VPP 1882-83, No. 48, Appendix 4, p. 26. 100 kerosene lamps ordered.
  171. Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell, Steam Locomotives of the Victorian Railways Volume 1: The First Fifty Years, Melbourne, 2002, p. 231.
  172. Based on an average 15 ton tare and 17 persons/ton, 25 foot cars with four compartments suitable for longer distances:-
    Loads and capacity: B class loco and 4-wheeled cars Maximum load of 140 tons on a 1 in 50 grade
    Car Class Tare (tons) Seats Pass. Tons Gross (tons) Cars/ Train Train Load Total Seats
    B (2nd) 15 40 2.4 17.4 6 104.1 240
    A (1st) 15 32 1.9 16.9 2 33.8 64
    Totals 8 137.9 304
  173. Australian, Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser, 19 March 1881, p. 3.
  174. Weekly Times, 24 December 1881, p. 8.
  175. Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 1881, p. 7.
  176. Argus, 26 December 1882, p. 6.
  177. See Grace’s Guide : William Stroudley
  178. Argus, 3 January 1883, p. 1.
  179. Age, 6 January 1883, p. 5. The campaign continued for six months, culminating in a letter by ‘Red Light’ condemning Mirls (but not by name). See:- Age, 14 June 1883, p. 3.
  180. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No. 35, Appendix 24.
  181. Age, 14 June 1883, p. 3.
  182. Victorian Railways Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Branch, Diagrams and Particulars of Locomotives Cars and Wagons, March 1897. Diagram of AB134-157 Built by W. Williams, 1886-87.
  183. Age, 31 July 1883, p. 6.
  184. Ballarat Courier, 13 February 1877, p. 2.
  185. Age, 7 February 1877, p. 2.
  186. Argus, 11 January 1876, p. 5.
    Argus, 14 January 1876, p. 5.
  187. Sydney Morning Herald, 8 October 1879, p. 5.
  188. Age, 31 August 1880, p. 2.
    Geelong Advertiser, 11 September 1880, p. 3.
  189. Argus, 4 April 1892, p. 5.
  190. Cave et al, p. 48.
  191. Cave et al, pp. 76, 92.
  192. Classification of Locomotive Diagrams.
    Clark and Rolland, Sheets 5-7. The Baldwin pattern engines were Nos. 153 and 155.
  193. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No. 35, Appendix 4, p. 26. Contract let 30 June 1882.
  194. Cave et al, p. 116.
  195. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No. 35, Appendix 4, p. 23. Contract let 12 September 1879.
  196. Cave et al, p. 103.
  197. Argus, 16 August 1882, p. 4.
  198. Weekly Times, 2 September 1882, p. 7.
  199. Weekly Times, 7 April 1883, p. 13.
  200. Age, 20 February 1883, p. 4.
  201. Leader, 2 September 1882, p. 16.
  202. Cave et al, pp. 51, 217. B76 is recorded as running the Limited Express to Albury on 21 August 1883. Although not the train for the opening ceremonies, the locomotive and carriages would have been similar.
    Age, 7 August 1882, p. 2.
    Leader, 2 September 1882, p. 16.
  203. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1879, VPP 1880-81, No. 14, Appendix 2, p. 18.
  204. Argus, 18 August 1882, p. 9.
  205. Argus, 30 December 1878, p. 4.
  206. Argus, 20 August 1878, p. 6.
  207. Illustrated Australian News, 22 January 1879, p. 11.
  208. Argus, 20 August 1878, p. 6.
  209. Illustrated Australian News, 22 January 1879, p. 11.
  210. Argus, 30 January 1880, p. 5.
  211. Argus, 21 January 1880, p. 4.
  212. Bendigo Advertiser, 27 February 1880, p. 3.
  213. Argus, 14 April 1882, p. 9.
  214. Leader, 9 September 1882, p. 16.
  215. Harrigan, p. 205.
    Argus, 16 May 1882, p. 4.
    Weekly Times, 27 August 1881, p. 9. No. 5 Shed lasted until the mid-1980’s.
  216. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No. 35, p. 27.
  217. Argus, 14 April 1882, p. 9.
  218. Argus, 18 August 1882, p. 9.
  219. Age, 9 July 1874, p. 2; 28 October 1880, p. 36.
  220. Argus, 3 July 1876, p. 6.
  221. Argus, 12 June 1877, p. 7.
    Argus, 16 June 1877, p. 6.
  222. Argus, 12 June 1877, p. 7; 16 June 1877, p. 6.
  223. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1877, VPP 1878, No. 6, p. 7.
  224. Argus, 13 July 1878, p. 7; 28 October 1880, p. 36
  225. Argus, 29 October 1878, p. 9.
  226. Age, 29 October 1878, p. 3.
  227. Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil, 20 November 1880, p. 314.
  228. Leader, 4 January 1879, p. 21. The locomotive was No. 149. SLV photograph FL20669149 of this incident is wrongly captioned.
    Argus, 13 July 1878, p. 7.
  229. Turner, pp. 217-8.
  230. Geoffrey Blainey, A History of Victoria, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 66-67.
  231. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1881, VPP 1882-83, No. 48, Appendix 4, p. 21, Contracts No. 1782 on 27 Feb 1880 £150 McKenzie & Holland for interlocking apparatus at Queenscliff, Wahgunyah, and Goulburn Valley lines; No. 1831 on 5 Mar 1880 £621 for All Lines.
  232. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No.35, Appendix 2, pp. 22-24. Two new signal boxes at Flinders Street, one each at Jolimont Junction, St Kilda Junction and St Kilda., and Appendix 24, p. 53,55. Contract No. 1351 on 25 Aug 1882 £15,455 McKenzie & Holland interlocking apparatus for All Lines, and No. 1352 £798 for semaphore fittings.
  233. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1883, VPP 1884, No. 62, Appendix 19, p. 34. Tonnage of goods and Livestock 1878: 960,479 cf 1883: 1,881,760. Passengers carried 1878: 3,829,256 cf 1883: 26,485,305.
  234. Argus, 6 March 1854, p. 4.
    Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 17 March 1854, p. 4.
  235. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1880, VPP 1881, No. 20, Appendix 3, p. 18.
  236. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1881, VPP 1882-83, No. 48, Appendix 3, p. 22. Telegraph Branch Report by K.L. Murray.
  237. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1882, VPP 1883, No.35, Appendix 4, p. 25. Telegraph Branch Report by K.L. Murray.
  238. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1883, VPP 1884, No. 62, Appendix 4, p. 19